Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Late COVID Report Shows Up Casual Unaccountable Government

“The August lockdown cost hardworking New Zealanders hundreds of millions of dollars, and the Government is still not telling the truth about its COVID response,” says ACT Leader David Seymour

“Releasing an October report in March shows how casual and unaccountable this Government’s COVID response is.

“The report is damning, but the Government says they've fixed the problems. Well they haven't, and they should have released the truth when they had it, not five months later. New Zealanders deserve to be treated like adults, brought into the Government’s confidence.

“The late release tells us the Government either thinks five months isn’t long in the context of an epidemic, or the public don’t deserve to be brought into its confidence -at least not when the news is bad for the Government.

“The truth is that the delay is political. The report reinforces what more and more New Zealanders suspect. There is nothing flash about the Government’s COVID-response, in fact much of it has been woeful, it's lucky we’re an island nation.

“The report finds that the Government did not use the 102 days of COVID freedom between May and August to mend the roof while the sun was shining. Instead, they dithered, promising to stress test their contract tracing but failed to actually do so.

“The initial three day lockdown was an opportunity to trace the August outbreak. That failed, in the end we required seven weeks of restrictions to get on top of the outbreak. The lockdown cost New Zealanders billions and three lives were lost to COVID-19.

“Worse, it has subsequently been revealed that end-to-end tracing of a case, has not improved since August. The ‘gold standard’ of 80 per cent end-to-end within four days has not been reached, with levels still at 50 per cent for the Valentine's day outbreak six months later.

“The report is of the public sector, by the public sector, for the public sector. The rest of New Zealand does not get a look in. It says that the response must ‘go with the grain of the public service.’ Nobody from the private sector was on the review panel or consulted by it.

“The closest the report gets to reflecting the private sector’s view is when it mentions ‘agencies supporting the private sector,’ as if the private sector is a burden to the public sector. It should be seen as a partner. The report should have had private sector participants and should have sought private sector views.

“We are moving into a new phase of the Pandemic, with vaccines, variants, new technologies and public fatigue changing the game. This will require greater private sector involvement and faster uptake of new technology.

"ACT has laid out how that might happen in our report COVID 2.0. That is the kind of thinking the Government should be adopting.

"We cannot rely on our isolation forever, we need the Government’s response to sharpen up. Sitting on a damning report for five months is the opposite of the attitude we need from Government.